Diana Vickers - why I love walking on Pendle Hill
PUBLISHED: 09:32 11 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:32 11 January 2016
The Blackburn star who found fame singing barefoot on the X Factor is happy to be in a horror story. Mairead Mahon reports
There’s only one diva in Diana Vickers’ house and that’s her cat, Aiki. The Lancashire actress and singer is an established success and is about to star in the Rocky Horror Show but when she’s at her London home, then Aiki calls the shots.
‘Luckily she loves me to sing to her and so she has had a ringside seat when I’ve been learning all the songs in the Rocky Horror Show. Sometimes she even purrs along,’ says Diana.
The cat has taste as since appearing on the X Factor in 2008, Diana has won a clutch of awards and it’s fair to say that she’s extremely proud of them,
‘I have them all lined up on a shelf above the television, so that everyone can see them and, in the unlikely event that they don’t, well then I have a poster of myself receiving one on the wall of my downstairs loo. There’s no escape!’ she laughs.
Hundreds of shoes are another thing that Diana has lined up, despite gaining a reputation for singing barefoot when she was on the X factor in 2008 when she was just 17.
‘I love shoes, I always have. There was a very practical reason behind singing barefoot on The X Factor. I was given high heels to wear in rehearsals and I promptly fell over in them. I dreaded that happening in the live show, so what’s a practical Lancashire girl to do but just not wear any, so that’s what I did,’ says Diana. ‘Mind you, I love heels now, the higher the better and, what’s more, I can walk in them.’
One thing that you won’t find in her home though is jars of a certain breakfast spread. Simon Cowell famously commented that she was like Marmite - you either loved or hated her distinctive voice and, in order to show support, legions of fans sent jars of it to her. So does she like the stuff? ‘I’ve honestly no idea. I was never tempted to taste it,’ she giggles.
Simon Cowell liked Marmite and he liked her too; so did millions of others, as her career has rocketed. Her debut single, ‘Once’ went to number one, as did her debut album, ‘Songs from the Tainted Cherry Tree’ and the tour in support of the album was a sell out. Her second album, ‘Music to Make Boys Cry’ has also been critically acclaimed but Diana is multi-talented. As well as writing much of her own material, playing a variety of instruments and even co-writing a single for Enrique Iglesias and Jennifer Lopez, she has also launched her own fashion line and dipped her toe in the world of modelling. ‘You can see now why I had to learn to walk in those six inch heels,’ she says.
Usually, X Factor contestants rush out their first single but Diana took a gamble - before releasing anything she took the lead role in the West End musical, ‘Little Voice’.
It had been a huge success years before and was made into a film with another Lancashire lady in the lead role, Jane Horrocks. When it was revived, playwright Jim Cartwright was totally blown away by Diana’s talent and lovely, unaffected nature. Even so, it’s not an easy role, as the lead has to imitate the voices of Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, Marlene Dietrich and Dusty Springfield. So how did a teenager from Blackburn begin to cope with that?
‘Well, I had a fantastic voice coach and I watched endless videos of all the singers on YouTube. I swear, I had the Wizard of Oz on repeat.’
It did the trick, as Jim compared finding her to finding treasure and the reviewers fell over themselves to heap praise, describing her as ‘magical’ and ‘poignant.’ Pretty amazing reviews, especially for a girl whose only other main role had been on the school stage at Westholme School in Blackburn, when she had starred as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music - a necessary consequence of attending an all girls school.
‘I loved it though. I have always loved performing, even when I was four I was nagging my mum to take me to ballet lessons. I think it might be in the blood as my granddad was known as a singer around the Lancashire clubs. Maybe that’s why my mum was fairly understanding when I once cut up her clothes in order to make myself a costume,’ confesses Diana.
Her parents have always been supportive and proud of her, as is her school who invited her back to open a musical centre and put up a plaque to commemorate the event.
‘It was wonderful but surreal and it was great to let everyone see that it is possible to make a career in entertainment. I wasn’t always confident that I would make it when I was at school. I knew I wanted to be a singer and actress but I just didn’t know how to make it happen. It was my friend Alex who made the move. She filled in the X Factor form for me and gave me the springboard.’
Diana now lives in London but she gets back to Lancashire as often as she can and dons those walking boots to scale Pendle Hill with her friends, family and a pal’s dog, Coco. If Coco has been very good, she will share a packed lunch of mayo and cucumber - not a trace of Marmite in sight.
‘Lancashire will always be my home,’ says Diana. ‘I love all of it from the busy market towns to the peaceful countryside of the Ribble Valley, although I suppose I shatter that peace a bit whenever I spend some of my time jumping into the river at Ribchester.
‘Anyway, I’m either visiting the county or my friends and family are visiting me, so there’s always a bit of Lancashire about and even when I’m home alone, I have Charlie. He’s my childhood teddy and he would be coming with me if I had to live on a desert island!’
Diana’s next project is starring as Janet Weiss, one of the leads in the stage production of the Rocky Horror Show and she can’t wait for the tour to reach Manchester. She’s already made sure that friends, family and Charlie will be there to cheer her on. It’s a fair bet that the reviews will be full of praise for this talented Lassie from Lancashire whose road to success has, so far, been anything but rocky.
*Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show tours the UK until 10th September 2016, with performances at the Opera House, Manchester, between January 5 and 16, and the Liverpool Empire, February 1-6. For tickets and more venues, visit rockyhorror.co.uk